Rules changes are allowed every other year in college hockey.
The two-year cycle lands on even years. That means this year, 2020, is a rules-change year.
In rules-change years, topics are often highly debated at the annual American Hockey Coaches Association meetings in Naples, Fla. The coaching body is surveyed for their opinions. Those results get back to the NCAA Ice Hockey Rules Committee, which eventually makes the call on what rules changes should be implemented.
But what will happen this year?
Because of the coronavirus pandemic, there were no AHCA meetings this week to hash out issues, and it's unlikely the Rules Committee will be able to meet in person in June as scheduled.
Will this still be a rules-change year? Or will it get pushed back a year?
"We're moving forward on surveying the hockey body," NCAA rules editor and Big Ten director of officials Steve Piotrowski said. "Right now, the plans are to continue discussions on relevant topics and future considerations as if we were going to have our normal meeting. One option certainly would be to table the rules change."
Tabling the rules-change year to next year could create issues. The NCAA assigns liaisons for playing rules and officiating to certain sports. Often times, the liaisons get assigned multiple sports that are on opposite rules cycles. If it tables rules changes for sports this year, it would mean nearly all NCAA sports would be on the same rules cycles.
"That may become problematic," Piotrowski said. "At the same time, we're sensitive that the proper form and opportunity to discuss and share clips and have robust discussions -- like we do when we meet personally -- still exists. If things like that are compromised, the Rules Committee, would have the opportunity to say, 'Hey, we're OK on these topics, but we're not going to move forward on other topics.'
"Long story short, one of the options that would be able to be considered -- but hasn't been determined yet -- is whether to table or hold tight another year."
The Rules Committee, in the meantime, has been working to proceed with the rules changes.
They've been meeting online weekly -- or in some cases biweekly -- to best prepare in case the June in-person meetings don't occur. They've also sent out surveys to the coaching body on topics they know will be highly debated. Most of the leagues have already met virtually. The National Collegiate Hockey Conference is in the middle of its meetings this week.
"We're still continuing to have discussions on future proposals on any rules changes," Piotrowski said. "There would be a formal meeting that would take place. That could be done virtually. Technology allows the opportunity to do so."
NCHC coaches meet via Zoom
The NCHC held its coaches meetings on Zoom on Monday morning.
The league posted a screenshot of the meetings on Twitter.
Two years ago, the NCHC posted a picture of the league meetings in Naples, Fla., which happened to show Nick Oliver sitting alongside the St. Cloud State coaching staff. Although St. Cloud State had not yet announced Oliver as a new assistant coach, the photo provided all the evidence needed.
This year, there was no such revelation.
St. Cloud State was represented by head coach Brett Larson, assistant coach Nick Oliver and operations director Nick Tomczyk. So, clearly, the Huskies did not have their future assistant coach sitting in on the meetings this year. There's been an opening at St. Cloud State since last month, when longtime assistant Mike Gibbons announced his retirement.
Every single team was represented by their head coach, both full-time assistant coaches and an operations director except for Minnesota Duluth. Bulldog associate head coach Jason Herter, who played college hockey at UND, was the only full-time NCHC coach who did not appear in the screenshots posted by the league.
It wasn't quite the same as being together in Naples, but good to see all our coaches and directors of operations during our virtual Annual Meeting today!— The NCHC (@TheNCHC) April 27, 2020
Lots of good discussions & information. #NCHCHockey pic.twitter.com/XULRRk3f5a
Denver loses top scorer
Denver will have to replace its leading scorer from last season.
Sophomore forward Emilio Pettersen, who led the team with 35 points in 36 games, signed a three-year deal with the Calgary Flames on Monday, giving up his final two years of college eligibility.
Pettersen, a sixth-round draft pick, was one of the league's most dynamic players over the past two seasons. As a rookie, he finished second in scoring on a team that ended up reaching the NCAA Frozen Four.
That means Denver will have to replace its top forward, Pettersen, and its top defenseman, Ian Mitchell, who signed with the Chicago Blackhawks after three college seasons.
The Pioneers still bring back dynamic forwards in juniors-to-be Cole Guttman (28 points) and Brett Stapley (30) and sophomore-to-be Bobby Brink (24). They're also bringing in Alaska Fairbanks' leading scorer, Steven Jandric, as a graduate transfer who will be eligible immediately. But losing Pettersen and Tyler Ward, who is transferring to New Hampshire, will make an impact.
Sioux Falls hires Marty Murray
The Sioux Falls Stampede in the United States Hockey League have hired Marty Murray as their next head coach and general manager.
Murray has been with the Minot Minotauros for the past eight seasons, where he coached a handful of players who went on to be prominent at the Division-I level.
Among those he brought to Minot and coached were St. Cloud State's Blake Lizotte, Arizona State's Johnny Walker, former Omaha captain Mason Morelli and former St. Cloud State alternate captain Jon Lizotte.
Murray, who played for the Calgary Flames, Philadelphia Flyers, Carolina Hurricanes and Los Angeles Kings, will replace former Colorado College coach Scott Owens in Sioux Falls. Owens, who led Sioux Falls to the Clark Cup title in 2019, opted to retire after this season.
Expansion draft predictions
We're going to see a lot of Seattle expansion draft predictions over the next 12 months, but this one has to raise some eyebrows in Grand Forks.
It has Tyson Jost, Christian Wolanin and Paul LaDue all going to Seattle. If that's the case, Seattle might as well just hire Dave Hakstol right now.
Seattle apparently is closing in on naming its team. It is scheduled to start play in the fall of 2021.
- Jason Deskins, who coached Grand Forks native and UND commit Cole Spicer at Honeybaked in Michigan last season, has been named assistant general manager and director of scouting for the Omaha Lancers in the USHL.